London born singer-songwriter, Emily Maguire makes her long-awaited journey back to the North East this month as she plays the Cluny 2, Newcastle on Saturday 24th June.
Lee Allcock caught up with Emily to discuss changing the big city for country living, her childhood, and fibromyalgia pain syndrome.
Your story is an intriguing one. You give up your flat in London for a shack made from recycled wood, tin and potato sacks on a farm out in the Australian bush and financed your music by making and selling goats cheese on the farm. That’s a little bit different than living in the big city and getting a label behind you…
I only went to Australia for a 3-week holiday to recover from a bad breakdown. I was visiting an old Aussie friend Christian Dunham and I thought I’d be coming back to London to get a proper job. I never imagined I’d end up living there for 4 years, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I loved the countryside, the animals and all that sunshine did me so much good. I started writing songs again, became a cheesemaker and made my first two albums.
You also had a fascinating childhood, having taught yourself how to play the guitar when you found yourself stuck at home with chronic illness, fibromyalgia pain syndrome. That must have been a difficult time, but did learning how to play the guitar and write songs bring a bit of light into the darkness?
I got fibromyalgia pain syndrome after a car crash when I was 16. I’d played classical instruments when I was a kid but only got a guitar for my 21st birthday because I was obsessed with Bob Marley and wanted to play his songs. When I started writing my own songs the illness became a complete blessing in disguise because I had all this time on my hands to write. I was on walking sticks and couldn’t work or go to university so I just sat in my bedroom and wrote songs. I was in constant pain but probably happier than I’d ever been in my life.
You’re an advocate for mental health, having also published a highly personal account of your experiences of dealing with bipolar disorder. Was it hard for you to admit that you had the condition? And did writing the book help you to deal with the disorder?
Publishing ‘Start Over Again’ was a big decision. My manager at the time was worried it might end my career, but I had a single on Radio 2 and I was touring and having a bipolar episode at the same time and I just decided I couldn’t hide it anymore. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. People said I was brave but I didn’t feel brave, I just felt liberated. Since then, I’ve been able to talk about it, sing about it, write about it, and do gigs in mental health hospitals.Stigma only has power if you pander to it. People know now where my songs are coming from.
What can we expect from your date at the Cluny, Newcastle?
I’ll be performing with my husband and bass player Christian, singing songs from my new album ‘A Bit Of Blue’ and old favourites from my other 4 albums. I love coming to Newcastle and playing The Cluny so I’m really looking forward to it.
Emily Maguire plays the Cluny 2, Newcastle on Saturday 24th June. Tickets, priced at £12.00, are available from thecluny.com.